A group of French soldiers, guns by their side, rest on a straw bedding laid down on the floor of the church. meanwhile a group of parishioners kneel and pray facing the altar.
Although all of the combatants were majority Christian nations, churches became focal points of fighting and were often commandeered to serve as bases, barracks, and field hospitals. The sturdy stone construction of churches and cathedrals meant that they made good strong points, and so they were often fortified and used as forts. Also their steeples served as good observation posts. As a result churches suffered terrible damage from artillery and infantry fighting, and were desecrated by both sides in the war.
Women Serving as Firefighters in London, 1916
With so many men dead, wounded or away at the front – women were needed to run the factories and take over what had been traditionally male jobs. Here a group of women can be seen practicing evacuating people from a building using a ladder.
Today, a woman working as a firefighter is not longer unusual, so much so that the use of the word fireman has fallen into disuse in favour of the more inclusive and gender neutral “firefighter”.
The women in this picture were definitely trail blazers, but I can’t help notice that even though they were doing non-traditional jobs, these women were still saddled with traditionally female clothing. The women are all wearing long skirts and large platform shoes. Imagine trying to rescue someone from a burning building in these outfits. They would be likely to trip or even catch fire because of all of the excess fabric flapping dangerously around.
Still, World War 1 did much to break down gender stereotypes and free women in the west from being pigeon holed into traditional occupations.
A French woman returns to her home after the Germans have been driven out, only to find that everything has been destroyed. She sits crying amid the rubble of her home, with all of her possessions in a sack made of tied up bedding. Scenes like this were repeated thousands of times as the French peasants living along the Western front found themselves dispossessed of their homes and their fields turned into trenches and killing fields.